The Norman Transcript

January 4, 2013

Voices of faith:Do animals have souls?


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Subject to karma

Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery: From the Buddhist perspective all sentient beings (beings with a consciousness) are subject to the laws of karma and rebirth. This is true of all beings from humans and animals right down the food chain to the smallest insect. Therefore, animals would indeed have a subtle continuum of consciousness that is reborn. However, animals are ruled by instinct, and those who are carnivorous inflict terrible suffering on one another and therefore continue to generate negative karma for themselves. So it is very difficult, if not impossible, for many animals to advance along the spiritual path.

On the other hand, we have all seen or heard on the news how some domesticated pets have done amazing things to save the lives of their owners. So, clearly animals have feelings and emotions.

Some people feel that, as humans, we have some superiority over animals and therefore have the right to mistreat or harm them. We need to recognize that on a fundamental level, animals, just like us, simply want to be happy and avoid suffering.

So, if we believe that animals are sentient beings subject to karma and rebirth, we should be able to see the vast web of interconnectedness of all sentient beings. Through this realization, hopefully we will want to do our best not to harm our fellow sentient beings or do anything to cause them to suffer.

Humans are distinct

Pastor Emeritus Raymond Davis Jr., Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ: According to the biblical text of Genesis 2:7, soul is the life principle of created man — “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” From this text God made soul a distinct spiritual property of man. Therefore, the Bible does not treat soul in any other manner except when talking about man, not about animals. There are reasons, consider:

Soul is that dimension of human life that enables man to have a relationship with God. This particular circumstance in God’s creative act gives credence to man having capacity for moral uprightness. But it should be noted that this moral quality was lost at what is known as “the fall, and original sin.” But that lostness is not absolute as God progressively pursued restoration, reconciliation and redemption through Jesus Christ. (Colossians 3:10) At this very moment man is God’s redemptive soul through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24 and Ephesians 1:7)

Modern day studies such as biblical theology, human psychology and anthropology treat the subject of soul with adventurous variety of interpretation, explanations and professional opinions.

But scripture doesn’t give these studies any plausibility of truth to this question. The question stays on the nay side of the ledger. When God created, he created with distinction. He separated the human kingdom from the animal kingdom. (Colossians 1:13)

Send your questions for our religion columnists to Darryl Levings at The Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108. Email levings@kcstar.com.

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